You may have been to a bar or a restaurant and noticed that the ice is completely clear only to come home and realize that the ice from your freezer is cloudy.
Or maybe you've been to a Sonic fast food chain and really enjoyed their cloudy nugget ice cubes that seem to absorb the flavor of the drink and are great to chew on.
Clear ice and cloudy ice may seem extremely different, but in reality they aren't too dissimilar from each other. So what exactly is the difference between clear ice and cloudy ice?
Clear ice is free of air bubbles and mineral impurities. It is better in drinks like whiskey as it looks better and melts slower due to its increased density. Cloudy ice is cloudy because it's full of trapped air bubbles. Cloudy ice is less dense making it more chewable and better in drinks like soda where the ice will be eaten with the drink.
In this article we'll look in more detail at the differences between cloudy ice and clear ice as well as how to make each other them and when it's best to use each.
What is Cloudy Ice?
Cloudy ice is simply regular ice but full of bubbles. This makes the ice appear opaque or cloudy and it also makes it less dense and lighter than regular ice.
Making cloud ice is one of the best ways to make chewable ice to put in your drinks or even just to enjoy on a hot summers day.
All ice has a bit of cloudiness in it. Ice is white in the middle because of air bubbles that get trapped in the ice cube as it freezes from the outside in. However, cloudy ice doesn't just have air bubbles in the center but throughout the ice cube.
Cloudy ice has bubbles frozen in the center because the water freezes from the outside in. As the water is going through its freezing process the impurities and oxygen are pushed to the center of the cube until they too are frozen.
Clear Ice Is Free From Air Bubbles And Impurities
In order to make clear ice you need to get the ice to freeze omni-directionally (in one direction).
This pushes all the air bubbles out of the ice as it freezes so the ice appears completely clear.
While it is possible to make clear ice with tap water the naturally dissolved minerals and impurities in the water mean it's more likely to form air bubbles and be more opaque.
For this reason most people will use filtered or distilled water to make clear ice. This can lead to the ice tasting better that cloudy ice as it's made from more pure and clean water.
Clear Ice Melts Slower
Because clear ice is free from bubbles it is denser than cloudy ice and thus it takes more heat energy and more time to melt the ice. This means clear ice melts slower than cloudy ice.
Add to the this the fact that people tend to make quite large clear ice cubes and the larger the ice cube the slower it will melt, so clear ice tends to melt a lot slower than cloudy ice. Click here to read some more tips on how to make ice melt slower.
For this reason clear ice is better than cloudy ice in drinks like whiskey, scotch and ice coffee where you don't want the water to dilute the drink.
Clear Ice Is More Impressive Looking
It is generally accepted that clear ice looks better than regular ice.
If it's completely clear it can appear to disappear in your drink. With bars and restaurants becoming more competitive many have sought to make their cocktails and drinks stand out by using large clear ice cubes.
Because large clear ice cubes aren't common people are impressed when they see them and it leads to an overall better drinking experience. The presentation of clear ice just has more “wow” factor compared to that out regular cloudy ice.
Clear Ice Is Harder To Make
One of the downsides of clear ice is that it's harder to make that cloudy ice.
I've done a full guide on how to make cloudy ice and basically you can use carbonated water and any ice cube tray or you can use nugget ice cube trays to make small cloudy ice cubes.
But to make clear ice cubes you need a specific ice cube tray designed to make clear ice. It does this by freezing the ice omni-directionally. Pushing out the air bubbles as it freezes.
Clear ice cube molds usually have insulated sides so ice only freezes from the top down and then reservoirs at the bottom for the air bubbles to freeze into. This makes them bigger so they take up more space in your freezer.
Clear ice cubes also take longer to freeze compared to regular ice cubes. Expect to wait 24-48 hours to get 2 inch thick clear ice cubes. Compared to 2-4 hours for regular smaller cloudy ice cubes this is a huge difference in wait time.
Cloudy Ice Can Contain Impurities But Doesn't Have To
Just because ice is cloudy doesn't mean it contains impurities, however usually cloudy ice isn't made from filtered or distilled water so it won't be as pure.
Also one way to make ice cloudy is to add sugar to it or other minerals so it freezes softer and more cloudy.
So while cloudy ice doesn't have to have impurities it's more likely to have impurities when compared to clear ice.
Cloudy Ice Is Better To Chew
Because cloudy ice is full of air bubbles it's less dense that clear ice and thus it breaks apart easier.
This has the benefit of making cloudy ice extremely chewable and delicious.
If you're like me and my kids and you enjoy simply chewing on ice you don't want to be chewing on clear ice as it can break your teeth.
Cloudy ice is soft and great to chew and it won't damage your teeth like clear ice will. Click here to learn how to make chewable ice cubes.
Cloudy Ice Absorbs The Flavors Of The Drink Better
Because cloudy ice is more porous than clear ice it absorbs the flavors of the drink better than clear ice does.
This means if you're drinking soda or a yummy cocktail and eating the ice with it soft cloudy ice will be better as you'll get more of the drink flavor in the ice.
Do People Like Clear Ice Or Cloudy Ice Better?
I read through a bunch of forum posts about clear vs cloudy ice to see what other people thought about each of them. Below are some of the things I foind.
Here is what people say about clear ice:
- Clear ice is “generally” better than cloudy ice because it is cleaner. The minerals, air bubbles, and impurities usually found in water can’t be seen in clear ice because that’s exactly what it is, clean ice without impurities.
- Clean water produces larger ice cubes because there are fewer air pockets to cause evaporation that shrinks the cube
- If you have clear ice in your beverage, it won’t affect the taste of the drink
- Clear ice melts slower because there are less air bubbles contained in the ice. Solid ice blocks vs ice blocks with stored oxygen will always melt slower because the surface area is greater.
- Clear ice cubes are “restaurant quality” cubes
And here is what’s said about cloudy ice:
- If you pour soda into a glass of cloudy ice vs clear ice, the soda will react to the oxygen in the cloudy ice and create more bubbles and foam. Meaning you’ll have to wait for the bubbles to settle before you can continue pouring your glass of soda. Otherwise, you can expect your soda to overflow.
- Because cloudy ice melts quicker than clear ice, cloudy ice usually results in watering down the flavor of your beverages quicker.
- Cloudy ice has a flavor where clear ice does not. Clear ice tastes like water, very cold water, and cloudy ice tastes like “freezer burn”.
Why Is Some Ice Clear and Some Ice Cloudy?
Clear ice is clear because it is free from air bubbles inside the ice and generally free from mineral impurities making it completely transparent. Some ice is cloudy as it contains trapped air bubbles and minerals in the ice that make it opaque.
Whether or not ice is clear or cloudy most has to do on the direction of freezing.
If ice freezes omni-directionally then air bubbles will be pushed out as it freezes making the ice clear. However if the ice freezes from all sides inwards then air bubbles get pushed towards the center of the cube making it cloudy.
Should Ice Be Clear Or White?
Most ice made in your freezer at home will be white in the middle, this is completely normal. Whether ice is clear or white doesn't say anything about the quality of the water in the ice.
Cloudy ice is safe to consume, it simply contains trapped air bubbles that make the ice opaque. Your home freezer will usually make cloudy ice.
Restaurant ice is generally clear but this is because of the way the ice is made. It freezes omni-directionally in a commercial ice maker. Because it freezes on cold metal plates before being dropped into the ice bin it appears clear.
Is Clear Ice Better Than Cloudy Ice?
Clear ice is generally considered higher quality than cloudy ice as it is usually made from filtered or distilled water and it melts slower than cloudy ice. However, cloudy ice can be better than clear ice if you want to be able to chew the ice and have the ice absorb the flavors of the drink.
Clear ice isn't technically better than cloudy ice. They are both made from water. They just have different advantages and disadvantages when compared to each other.
How To Make Cloudy Ice Easily At Home
There are a lot of different ways to make cloudy ice at home. I've done a full guide on how to make cloudy ice at home which you can check out for the full details but here are the main ways to make cloudy ice:
- Use Carbonated Water
- Use Club Soda
- Add Sugar To Your Water
- Use A Nugget Ice Maker
- Use A Benchtop Soft Ice, Maker
- Crush The Ice
- Use An Ice Shaver
You can also see my guide on how to make instant cloudy ice in a water bottle which is both a cool trick but also makes really soft and delicious ice.